tuque /tūk/ n Canadian English, var. toque [19th c. Canadian French, from the French toque, from the Basque tauka] 1 A close-fitting knitted cap, often with a long tapering end or tassel or pompom. 2 fig Something quintessentially Canadian.
souq /sūk/ n from the Arabic سوق var. souk 1 An open-air marketplace. 2 fig A central meeting place for the circulation of news and ideas.

Friday, October 10, 2008

If democracy were a hockey team, what position would Hamas play?

If democracy were a hockey team, then Hamas would be the Bulgarian goalie who gave up 82 goals in one game.*

(Just go with me on this one...)

In an editorial commentary [ENGLISH] on the news site that is all but Hamas' official website - the Palestine Information Center - columnist Khalid Amayreh blasts the West Bank Fatah government's call for new, nationwide democratic elections as a "propagandist gambit" and a "sabotage" of democracy.

On the one hand, the article correctly cites various studies and sources which have concluded that Fatah elements backed by allies in the U.S. and Israel have conspired to foment civil unrest (if not all out war) ever since Hamas won the polls in the 2006 Palestinian elections. Mr. Amayreh calls the violent Hamas take-over of Gaza last summer a "counter-coup," arguing that:

"Fatah today remains the same Fatah that only reluctantly and under American pressure agreed to allow general elections to take place in 2006 and only because Fatah leaders seemed then certain they would win.

"However, when Hamas won the polls by a wide margin, Fatah couldn’t swallow the bitter bill and decided to embark on every conceivable act of sabotage in order to undercut Hamas and destabilize its rule. Some observers believe that Fatah took a secret decision to bring the would-be Hamas government down as soon as elections results were announced."

True, what happened after Hamas won the democratic elections of 2006 (and the fact that Hamas won is the surest sign of democracy in action) - the cinching of foreign aid, the polarization of Palestinian society, the bloody street battles between the factions - was certainly aided by Fatah's sore-losership.

But then again, the fact that Hamas participated in elections after erstwhile boycotting all Palestinian attempts at government smacks of political opportunism, not faith in democracy.

Mr. Amayreh also cites an overheard secret tape of the former Fatah strongman in Gaza, Mohammed Dahlan, telling comrades before the '06 election that he'll set Gaza "on fire" if Hamas wins.

Well that, too, is what happened. And it is no coincidence that, after more than a year of bloody skirmishes between Hamas and Fatah in Gaza, it was when Dahlan left for medical treatment in Egypt in June of '07 that Hamas went on the total offensive and overwhelmed Fatah troops in a matter of days, setting up what is basically a totalitarian "Hamastan" in the Gaza Strip.

None of this changes the fact that Hamas rightly won the elections in '06, nor does it change the probability that, should new elections actually happen now (if they even could happen fairly), and should Hamas win again, Fatah (and Israel, and the U.S.) would become even more desperate - perhaps more violent - in its attempt to crush Hamas and in the process take Palestine further away from peace and the end of the brutal Israeli occupation.

But what also must not be obscured is the fact that neither Hamas - nor Palestine partly because of Hamas - is operating as a democracy now. Yes, like that poor Bulgarian goalie, Hamas at least skated in the game. They are still skating occassionally: recently Hamas conducted a clandestine ballot to re-elect its Gaza leadership. But they aren't all-stars, much as they would have us believe.

And, as long as we're having fun with the hockey metaphor, if democracy were a hockey team, America would be Sean Avery, Israel would be Todd Bertuzzi's hit on Steve Moore, Sweden would certainly be Mats Sundin, and Iraq would be Jacque Plante's face. Canada would probably be Theoren Fleury. And Fatah would have to be Roy Keane.

* Actually, the Bulgarian starting goalie gave up 77 goals, then the backup let in the remaining 5 in the final 1 minute, 25 seconds.

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